By Max Urso
I love games. If there is a mechanic to create my own character, then I’m hooked; the more complex and flexible the better. New character ideas are always popping into my head, and that’s the problem. I rarely stick to one character. If there’s an account limit on toons (slang from City of Heroes I still use to this day), I will fill up my roster in no time. There might be one hero that gets leveled above the others, but inevitably I will have a dozen in their mid-levels while my “main” sits there waiting for the end game that he can never quite reach.
Why? I think I have a Pavlovian reaction to leveling. In City of Heroes, we would toot our own horns in super-group (guild) chat simply by stating, “Ding.” Our fellow SG members would respond with some version of, “Gratz.” I was addicted to the reward, the gratification of progress. I had a small handful of capes that had reached level 50…and were mothballed. Guess who reached level 50? Guess who’s rolling another new toon? Each capped out hero unlocked another character slot as well. They were keeping me hooked. One game after another, new purchase after new purchase, subscription after subscription; It’s not cheap being an alt-aholic.
Superhero games (there are few) are great for satisfying my Alt-itis. It’s the costume creator that reels me in. Champions Online (based on the pen and paper game) has, in my opinion, one of the best costume creation systems ever. It’s not for everyone though, and why play an MMO that your friends aren’t into? So I switch it up, try new game after new game looking for the one that will end my affliction.
I thought it was RIFT. Finally, I had found a character I could stick with. Life gets in the way and might slow me down, but I managed to reach the cap with my rogue. What was different? The secret was in the class system. There were only four classes, but each one had a dozen souls. These souls could be combined by picking three at a time and making the character you want. All rogues are not the same. I leveled to 65 but found the soul system was simply enabling my Alt-itis as I kept changing what souls I had equipped.
It’s not just video games either. I’m the same way with pen and paper RPGs. I have actually gotten upset when my hero makes his death save in D&D. I’ve begged some DMs to kill off my character so I can play the new one I had waiting in the shadows. It’s not as easy to satisfy that fix among your regular Sunday group, though. Continuity trumps boredom. The level progression in D&D is slower compared to video games, too. There’s less “Ding” so I have to find another creative outlet; I DM. Why create one hero when I can create a whole world? The need for new, an alternate game, is strong here as well. I don’t recall how many systems I’ve learned. All different, all fun.
Each game I play, each character I create satisfies a hunger in the moment. I feel a rush flying around Millennium City in Champions Online as the theme from Superman streams in my ears. I track down each new hunter’s pet in World of Warcraft, debating on what new name to give it. I stare in wonder at the backstory I’ve created for my Sunday group, most details of which they may never know. There is definitely a need that creating fills.
My name is Max Urso, and I’m an Alt-aholic.